Running a home-based business has some interesting challenges, not the least of which is child care if you are a working parent. Gretchen Bonasera is head chef and owner of The Food Smiths, a catering company attached to her family home. Successfully running a small catering business takes much more than great cooking. You have to be a planner, a manager, be well organized and have the flexibility to be able to deal with last minute changes. You also have to be available to prepare and serve days, nights and weekends.
Gretchen and her family and their Cultural Care au pair were recently featured on a news station in Ohio. When they were looking for child care, Gretchen’s husband, Michael, said that the au pair option really made sense for their family. “The high variability of Gretchen’s schedule made regular day care just not tenable for us, even just a regular nanny, because they have set hours and so forth. She can change her schedule if things come up,” he said. Gretchen likes the proximity to her son, Tommy. “That’s really why I went with the program,” Gretchen said. “I can dip out and see him, when I need a break. They’re just right there.”
In addition to the flexibility and the ability to see the kids throughout the day, having an au pair also allows home-based business owners to overcome some of the other challenges of working from home. Although many home based business owners find themselves interacting online and on the phone with customers and vendors throughout the day, being in a home office can be socially isolating. Having an au pair provides not only a companion during the day but also allows for the opportunity to meet a friend for lunch or a walk.
It is also challenging to ignore the distractions of laundry, cleaning, carpooling and other necessary activities around the house. Val Rempe has run her business from home for 11 years and says, “Although it is easier to get daily household chores completed thanks to the proximity, the time constraints of a working parent are still there. With an au pair, I have help with the children’s laundry and grocery shopping and can get in a workout in the morning before my workday begin.” Sue Shellenbarger from the Wall Street Journal’s blog The Juggle reports that more working parents are doing double duty (working from home and caring for the kids) to save money on child care despite the most oft-cited rule for telecommuters —never try to work from home with small children unless you have child care help. “For home-based parents, this can mean plenty of TV-viewing to occupy kids, cookie and candy bribes to gain quiet time, interrupted phone calls and lots of frustration,” says Shellenbarger. Having an au pair eliminates too much TV time and other desperate solutions to keeping kids quiet and entertained. The best part? It’s surprisingly affordable— the cost of an au pair for 45 hours of child care averages $355 per week regardless of the number of children you have.